With the rise of the #MeToo movement, it is hard to ignore the impact it has on people. A good example would be the Seventh Annual Multidisciplinary Conference.
With this conference, students, professors and keynote speakers exchanged thoughts about the politics of sexuality in a structurally unequal society. With that, it built up a movement by a community of advocates driven by survivors, who will be at the forefront of creating solutions to interrupt the sexual violence in their communities.
That is according to the many keynote speakers who spoke at the event, like Greta LaFleur, Durba Mitra and Dr. Julianne Malveaux. The speakers had presentations that explained the histories of sexual harassment and report on the current state of the #MeToo movement with the aim of creating lasting cultural change, despite how difficult it will be.
“Culture is hardwired in us, and how do we change some of that? Some of that we change it through custom but that takes a long time through law,” said Dr. Malveaux. “It’s easier to say let’s just change a law but it’s hard to change a custom.”
Each of the three sessions during the conference was packed with students and at the end of each session, students showed poise and were engaging in the conversation between them and the keynote speakers with students. Throughout the conversation the attendees were talking about their experience or opinions of sexual harassment.
One of the more significant questions asked was in regard to an incident involving Cherelle Locklear, a former student of William Paterson University, who alleged rape against a fraternity on campus on Nov. 22, 2015. However, the case was ignored by the school’s administration. In grief over the school’s response, she later committed suicide in the dorms.
That question received an applause, seen by many an essential question to ask.
“It’s a part of the William Paterson University history, it’s very recent and it’s a perfect example of Dr. Malveaux was talking about. She felt that she had no one to turn or anywhere to go,” said senior Jennifer Fiore. “That is the exact same thing that is happening on a grander scale outside of the microcosm of William Paterson University. It’s a national conversation that is also happening in our backyard.”
On a college campus where sexual assault, the violation of boundaries and questions around consent happens, this event was seen by many as an important opportunity to take a day to reflect on what this all means.
“I think that in many ways, that our students really are positioned to use their own experience, their understanding of the issues and the new knowledge coming in from the movement to inspire them to kind of push for change,” said Sumi Raghavan, Assistant Professor of Physiology in William Paterson University.